by Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel
For 2013, six stewards provided their observations of bird and marine mammal activities within the Important Bird Area (IBA.) Compared to the first year of steward observations, the number of reports were down and coming on a less regular basis. Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel, as caretakers, also have done regular observations throughout the year a marine survey of Active Pass was not possible this year. In all, 43 species were observed using the waters and marine shorelines of the Active Pass IBA for 2013. The cumulative total of all species’ daily highs per month equaled 19,080 birds.
The seasonal distribution of the IBA qualifying species remains evident in the observations compiled for 2013. Bonaparte’s gull had peak daily and yearly numbers in the April-May period (3000 and 2500 respectively) and the usual, but lesser, fall high in October-November (300 for each) this year. Pacific loon numbers for 2013 were consistent with previous years with good numbers tied to the late fall and winter months (February-March and November-December). Brandt’s Cormorant continues to show low daily high numbers through the fall and winter months with the peak this year in December (106 birds). Again this year, the numbers reported for two of the qualifying species, Pacific loon and Brandt’s cormorant continue to be below historical observations. As was the case last year, Brandt’s cormorants appeared elsewhere in the region with a count of ~ 1,000 observed in October 2013 in the Sidney Channel IBA.
No new conservation threats were observed over 2013, though erosion continues along areas of soft shorelines. A derelict piece of dock has grounded in Miners Bay affecting the eelgrass bed in the area.
The marine feeding areas used by the vast majority of birds (tidal upwelling, fronts and rapids) continue to be used heavily and appear to provide optimum feeding opportunities for these species. No discernible changes in habitat quality were detected over 2013.
Other Conservation Opportunities
The Mayne Island Conservancy continues to monitor eelgrass and forage fish spawning within the IBA to measure changes and occurrences over time. The Mayne Island Conservancy and Mayne Island Recycling Society again hosted a community beach cleanup for Earth Day April 22, 2013. The Mayne School children cleaned the main beach at Miners Bay while members of the community cleaned other beaches of the IBA. In total there were 25 students plus 6 staff and parents who participated. For the Miners Bay portion of the IBA 16 kg of marine debris was collected, metals made up the bulk of this material. This amount was well down from the previous year.
In addition to the work being done for the Stewardship Program noted above, updates on IBA activities have gone in to Mayne Island’s local newspaper. Presentations on the IBA and the stewardship program have been made at the Mayne Island Conservancy’s AGM. Information about bird activity in the Active Pass IBA has been provided in regular bird articles in Galiano’s monthly newsmagazine. The Mayne Island Conservancy’s annual Community Oceans Day was held within the IBA in July 2013. The Miners Bay dock was used for displays and activities that included beach walks, a beach seine and divers. Over 100 people attended the day’s celebration. A boat tour of the Active Pass IBA was also provided later in the day. On Galiano, birdwalks to observe birds in the IBA have been offered to the public.
It is estimated that volunteers contributed over 200 hours of time toward the Active Pass IBA and its ecosystems. This includes the work of the caretakers, the stewards, the Mayne Island Conservancy, and the park commission and the Mayne School children. This represents 45 volunteers over the 2013 year.
Part of the stewardship program was to record observations of marine mammal activity and any strandings of birds or marine mammals. The field monitoring form designed for the IBA include fields to record marine mammal movements and unexpected events. This year again, we were excited by the observations of a Humpback Whale in Active Pass as well as Pacific White-sided Dolphins. One steward provided the orca use numbers and no other marine mammal sightings were reported.